Cambodia, Expat, lifestyle, Personal, Phnom Penh, Travel, United States

Greener.

Let go

Today is what I call a Washington day: overcast, slate grey, hints of fog drifting over the sound, and a slight bite in the air. I’m wearing plush furry slippers, a sinfully cozy sweatshirt, and joggers- curled up under a marshmallowy throw. Some people hate this blanket of a gunmetal hue over the city and I am surprised at how quickly I have reacclimatized to the weather here. Complaints of “sweating like an asshole” and “I’m literally melting” have been sent to me from friends in Cambodia and I sure don’t miss that. It’s strange not rolling over onto one of many air conditioner remotes in the middle of the night and being able to wear a velvet robe at any time of the day.

The weather today also reflects a bit of my mood: it’s been a difficult past few days. The smallest problems that arise feel like mountains to climb, trivial issues that come up become enormous frustrations. A missing piece from a bed getting put together sends me into a customer service fueled rage or losing a car key feels like the end of the world. I am dramatic, I’ve always been dramatic and likely always will be- but at times like this it feels like I’m living out a boring version of Days of Our Lives, all the “woe is me” fainting and swanning about minus the affairs, love story, stilettos, hospital calls, and murder.

I’m trying to figure out why these things are so difficult. Why did a once-loved trip to IKEA become a chore and going to the grocery store feel like a task? It all seems to come down to realizing that for once in a long, long time I’m doing these things by myself for myself, and only myself.  The last time I went to IKEA was with my ex-ex boyfriend. We chose items to fit our beautiful little apartment in North Tacoma with all of its random nooks and crannies and played out scenes from 500 Days of Summer. I used to love grocery shopping in Phnom Penh, hopping onto the back of a moto and carrying eight plastic bags and weaving through manic traffic on the wrong side of the road to head to our high-rise, welcomed by cats jumping into the emptied bags. Now, I just get in my car and drive. Then walk through the aisles, pay, go home, unpack, and then it’s done. Where did the novelty go? The adventure? The excitement of building something? Now, it’s just me. And while I am at peace with that for the most part, it’s the getting used  to it that’s so raw.

Releasing my grip on a life in Cambodia is a work in progress- and I don’t know if it will ever be finished. I left a large part of myself, three years of my life, in the Kingdom of Wonder. That’s bound to have an impact on me and I’ve found that it’s definitely the case. I skim through random people’s photos on Instagram at night with the hashtag #Cambodia or #PhnomPenh and find myself crying, missing the red dust and frangipani and beautiful smiles from the people around us. The wearing yet wonderful tuk-tuk rides around the city with Jake Bugg blasting through my headphones and a smile plastered across my face whenever I would pass a billboard that my friends did or a restaurant or store they owned. I miss my colleagues, my friends- both old and new- and the ability to be next to them within a matter of minutes and a phone call away. We lived so freely, so openly.

I ache for those moments and those people. I ache for the constant business of life, for always having projects at hand and collaborating with fun, brilliant people who are driven and go-getters and making things happen. I ache for the creative flow that ran so strongly through the blood of my peers and as I see them continue to do these exciting things all together, I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something that I really should be in on. That I want to be in on, but simply can’t.

But then I remember that I chose to move back to the United States. This was my choice. This was a step that I made for myself, for a reason, and one that I  truly don’t regret. I force myself to remember that life in Washington is not a sentence: I moved once and I can do it again, but right now this is where I want to be. Where I have decided to plant roots again. I’ve been touting the quote “the grass is greener where you water it” for years now, but it’s come up in conversation a few times this week.

Of course the things you loved so much about one place are going to beckon you with their siren call from far away- that’s what happened to me when I came back for Christmas in Washington and ultimately led me to make the decision to come back. Now, that call is being made back to the third world- a place of adventure, growth, unknown. But I am here now and I am grateful. So I water thee, Oh Washington. I water you for my beautiful friends who lend me their help, support, love, and time all throughout the week For listening to me ramble about the things that change every day for me, my hopes, my dreams, my desire, my relationships, my fears, my inadequacies. I water you for my family, for being surrounded by people who have loved and known me for decades, who accept all my flaws and shortcomings and even celebrate them for their whimsy and silliness at times. I water you for your easy living: being able to make a purchase seamlessly or to walk down the streets without twisting an ankle or being hounded by overeager drivers. I water you for allowing me to walk out my front door and have a view of a marina, blue waters, the regal Mt. Rainier, and the glass museum. To skim my fingers in the water if I so choose. I water you for your coffee shops where the people remember you by name and you can sip on a delicious drip coffee for $1.50.

The grass is green in both places, beautifully and wonderfully so. I never want to forget that there are beauties and charms of everywhere I go, have yet to go, and where I will live- wherever that may be. The world is my oyster, I’m just busy tasting it before I slurp it all down. It’s okay to have lots of greenery, actually- it’s better than okay, it’s magnificent. How lucky am I to be able to know lushness in more than one place? While it may be painful at times, I am here now. I must be present. I must accept the things that come, both good and bad, with humility and gratefulness and to live minute by minute.

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One thought on “Greener.

  1. NK says:

    I’m still in Cambodia, in my 4th year. I’ve seen so many people come and go. Some days I feel like I should have left already. I tried to once, I moved to Hanoi briefly, that was a disaster though. My visits home to America have not induced nostalgia in me for anything other than being able to see world-class musicians, local or touring, play constantly. More shows than a person can go to, really, now that nobody pays for music and that’s the main source of income for much of that industry essentially. I love that about America – that one thing – the best live music anywhere in the world (as long as you don’t live in some backwater state) period. Well and maybe … The few real friends I have left there. My mom, who I feel guilty about leaving since my dad is dead. My brother who I feel guilty about leaving, because he’s wealthy and successful but I get the distinct impression he’d rather be doing what I’m doing. What am I doing? I have no clue. I have more friends leaving here soon; I try to remind myself that this means that I’d better go out and make some new ones if I want to keep sane here, and I suppose I will. I suppose I’ll have to. This post was helpful, actually. Some of the same things you’re feeling about not being here, I’m feeling about being here and not being sure if I’ve stayed too long or what too long is, it feels like I’m being left behind when all these people I feel like I need are departing, but I’m far from home, where I left everyone I’d ever met there behind of my own volition in a way? Your way is the only way to stay sane. Take the memories and experiences for what they are – crucial plot elements in the narrative that is your life, indispensable, valuable, worthy of the emotional responses they bring forth, something to be embraced. The grass is greener where you water it, be in the present moment … Always look on the bright side of life? I’ll try my best to do so. I suppose I’ll have to.

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